OpenLDAP for Windows, Mac & Linux

Written by Ryan Squires on April 6, 2019

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Can you use OpenLDAP for Windows, Mac, and Linux? The short answer is that it is possible, but for the most part, it is incredibly painful to leverage LDAP for system authentication. On one hand, Linux is generally an easier platform to utilize with OpenLDAP. On the other hand, Windows and Mac are far more difficult to make work with OpenLDAP.

In general, the fact that OpenLDAP works better with Linux systems does make a lot of sense. Linux systems and the users who operate them generally focus on the more technical aspects of computing. So, when it comes to OpenLDAP, an authentication protocol most popular with technical applications and servers, it stands to reason that the two go together. Some of the typical use cases we see OpenLDAP leveraged in are data centers and cloud infrastructure services like those from AWS and GCE. While OpenLDAP does a good job of supporting Linux systems, there are still a few challenges to be aware of when it comes to using it as your directory service.

OpenLDAP: Three Challenges

The challenge with using OpenLDAP for Windows, Mac, and Linux authentication is three-fold. The first is that OpenLDAP is optimized for LDAP-centric systems and applications. You can find these types of resources in DevOps outfits and other technical organizations. Unfortunately, Mac and Windows systems have generally been optimized for the platforms their respective companies have created for them. In the case of Mac, macOS is optimized for Open Directory. For Windows systems, they’re designed to work with Active Directory. The result is that integrating OpenLDAP with Windows and Mac can often be a manual process—one that requires a large number of steps.

The second issue is that a core directory service is often the central point of user and system management across IT resources. Resources include not only systems, but applications (web and on-prem), cloud servers often requiring the use of SSH keys for authentication, file servers, and WiFi and wired networks. Many of the resources mentioned make use of authentication protocols that are different from LDAP. So, while an OpenLDAP infrastructure is certainly useful, it is merely one protocol amongst a handful that you’re likely already using.

Finally, the third challenge with OpenLDAP for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems is that the management of the OpenLDAP infrastructure itself can represent a major time sink. IT admins are required to install, configure, and maintain the LDAP infrastructure. Further, authentication services are a 100% uptime service, so the OpenLDAP infrastructure extends to include redundancy, high availability, and security mechanisms. Challenges like these can really hamper the effectiveness of IT organizations. So, many are looking to the cloud in an effort to save time, money, and frustration.

Cloud Directory: Three Solutions

For IT admins looking to simplify their IT environments, many begin by looking to the cloud to see if hosted solutions are available to help alleviate the challenges described above. They are interested in a solution that can offer system authentication in cross-platform environments. In addition, they want a directory service platform that can take advantage of multiple protocols commonly in use like LDAP, SAML, RADIUS, REST, SSH, 2FA and more. Finally, a key requirement is that it offloads much of the work of server maintenance to a third party, so IT admins can have more time to perform tasks outside of basic maintenance chores. When all these requirements are met, the solution that remains is JumpCloud.

JumpCloud serves as an equal opportunity directory service. It is not made by Apple or Microsoft, so it has been designed to enable authentication with all the major OS platforms. There is no need to create elaborate workarounds or stack a bunch of add-ons onto Active Directory. Just install a lightweight agent on the systems that need to be managed, fire up the console, and get to work.

Second, JumpCloud employs the most powerful protocols in use today. That includes LDAP, SAML, RADIUS, REST APIs, SSH, 2FA, and more. So, all the IT resources in your organization—old and new—can be utilized and centrally managed. Finally, JumpCloud has placed servers all over the globe, and we maintain them ourselves. This allows users to access their resources whenever they need them and wherever they may be. For IT admins, they can rest easy knowing that an expert third-party team is taking care of server upkeep.

Sound Too Good to Be True?

Start a 30 Day Trial of JumpCloud today to get instant access to the entire platform—system auth, protocols, hosted infrastructure, and everything else.

Ryan Squires

Ryan Squires is a content writer at JumpCloud, a company dedicated to connecting users to the IT resources they need securely and efficiently. He has a degree in Journalism and Media Communication from Colorado State University.

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